He's been a part of the upstart tech scene for years, and he's seen art of the personal connection disappear. TED has gotten way too big, South by Southwest is "barbecue and everyone f---ing pitching each other," and Dao is just ... over it.
This sense of disillusionment led Dao to leave his post as events producer for Twiistup, whose blowout parties have become a fixture in the West Coast startup scene. Upon his exit last September, Dao pronounced the conference model "broken" -- and proposed a fix in the form of his own venture.
It's called 50 Kings, and Dao touts it as "a new VIP conference model." It's based on three strict rules: no pitching, no snitching and no snobbery.
True to its name, events are limited to 50 members of the tech and media community. Attendees must apply or be referred for an invitation to one of the three or so events Dao plans to throw annually.
But these gatherings are no run-of-the-mill conferences. Instead, Dao is currently organizing a cattle drive (à la "City Slickers") and a pirate war. Seriously.